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Legal watchdog reveals hidden fees in retirement property

A report carried out by the Law Commission has divulged how the UK’s elderly are being caught out by hidden fees from retirement or age-restricted housing.

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Legal watchdog reveals hidden fees in retirement property

A report carried out by the Law Commission has divulged how the UK’s elderly are being caught out by hidden fees from retirement or age-restricted housing.

The Law Commission came across this evidence following a mystery shopper exercise, discovering that contracts saw homeowners expected to pay two per cent of the value of the retirement property for every year that they lived there and some received penalties for changes in their circumstances.

Residents, in some cases, were penalised for hiring a live-in carer – taking away from their pension which is supposed to help cover things like daily necessities and healthcare requirements such as stairlift prices.

These event fees, when applied correctly, are put in place to help elderly homeowners manage their pension or savings better by reducing annual maintenance costs to the property. The costs can be reclaimed later from the equity of the house as it is sold or the resident passes away.

Instead, retirement property developers have taken advantage of over 65s looking to move to sheltered housing for the companionship opportunities it offers later in life. In a number of undercover exercises, the Law Commission determined that these additional fees were not made clear upfront and often weren’t identified until the potential resident had already signed a contract tying them into paying.

Developers have been accused of preying on lonely or vulnerable retirees, keeping quiet about these so called ‘event fees’ until the resident either moves or their family try to sell the property once they’ve gone.

The Law Commission announced its report in October of last year and will advise the Government to put an end to this extortion by implementing new laws that will limit the developers behind some 145,000 retirement properties in the UK. The new rules are expected to ensure that full disclosure of events fees, alongside sale prices, is a condition of their practice. In the future those companies found guilty of flouting the new regulations will be required to compensate customers and could be named and shamed in the public arena.

The recent unearthing of this retirement housing scandal may be enough to convince mature readers to stay put. While there may be some costs incurred for those who choose to remain in their own private property, such as mobility equipment or hiring a care provider, with so many voluntary services available and affordable stairlift options, it appears to be the most cost-effective route for the time being at least.

Image Credit: Borya (flickr.com)

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